A Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe softball fan mentioned to the crowd before Cheyenne Burns' plate appearance in the bottom of the sixth inning that it would be an appropriate time to hit one out.
Whoever said it should have found the nearest convenience store and bought lottery tickets.
Burns belted her first high school home run — a grand slam, no less — to launch the Lady Warriors to a 5-4 win over visiting Oconee County and into the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs.
"Coach told me to keep my hands inside and go with the pitch," Burns said. "I went with the pitch for the first time. Yeah!"
Her mother, Nikki Burns, walked out of the stadium with a big smile and the grand-slam ball.
Burns' blast proved to be the most decisive play of the series' deciding game. But it was not the only important play for the Lady Warriors (19-16), who trailed 3-0 in the middle of the third inning.
"We were two evenly matched teams, and that showed today," Oconee coach Bryan Eades said. "They had one player step up and make a play, and we tip your cap."
LFO starting pitcher Cori Elswick lasted 2 1/3 innings after earning the win in game two Wednesday night. Oconee scored three runs off Elswick in the top of the third. Then LFO coach Lisa Rogers-Gray chose to go with Megan Smith, who ended the threat.
"It was difficult to decide who to start," Rogers-Gray said. "We felt like Cori had a great night and we wanted to go with the hot hand. But with both of them, we'd have a short pull."
The decision worked for slowing Oconee, but the Lady Warriors still had to get their offense going. They did, when three straight singles were followed by Burns' slam.
Yet Oconee rallied in the top of the seventh. After two outs came three straight singles -- including two infield hits to the left side — loading the bases. Smith induced another ground ball to shortstop Courtney Crawford, who flipped to second baseman Beth Posey just in time.
"She's a senior who's smart and plays short for a reason," Rogers-Gray said. "She kept cool and made the play."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...